World of Wellesley (WOW) held its 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast at Wellesley College’s Alumnae Hall on MLK Day. Approximately 200 Wellesley community members attended the event including Wellesley College President Paula Johnson; Massachusetts State Senator Becca Rausch; Massachusetts State Representative Alice Peisch; all five members of the Wellesley Board of Selectmen; the chiefs of both the Wellesley’s Fire and Police departments; many other Town employees; and WOW Board members.
Michelle Chalmers, president of WOW and emcee of the event, began by leading the crowd in a Land Acknowledgement statement: “We as people who reside, work, and engage in Wellesley acknowledge this town is located on the traditional territory of the Massachusett People.”
From there, Rev. Jacquelina Marquez, Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Wellesley College, delivered an invocation and invited people to share a sign of peace. After the crowd exchanged hand shakes, fist bumps, hugs, or just smiles and nods, Marquez led the group in prayer, drawing attention to “the tears of the hurting…the cries of the frail…and the pleas of the people whose dreams have been too long deferred.”
The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College then made their traditional appearance, singing as their first selection, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, often referred to as the Black national anthem. The three-verse song was written as a poem in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson, and set to music in 1905 by his brother John Rosamond Johnson.
Some in the crowd knew the lyrics and sang along, sounding strongest during the first verse, which goes,
“Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.”
Later, panelist Dr. Tina Opie, Associate Professor of Management at Babson College and a Visiting Associate Professor at MIT’s Sloane School of Management, asked for a show of hands of those in the crowd who were able to sing along to Lift Ev’ry Voice. A smattering of audience members raised their hands, leading Opie to encourage each member in attendance to learn the lyrics and next year show up ready to sing along. “Don’t come to this breakfast year after year without learning the song,” Opie said.
Several members of the Wellesley High School Raiders Cheer Team, coached by Odessa Sanchez, then brought the movement and the energy as the varsity athletes showed their stuff.
Next, a panel presentation entitled, A Dream Deferred, featured an inter-racial and inter-ethnic group of three social justice advocates who provided insights on Dr. MLK’s dream and the fight for civil rights of Black people, Indigenous people, and Latin X. Moderator Chistina Horner, co-chair of the Breakfast Committee, led the discussion. The three panelists were Opie; Annawon Weedon, an enrolled member of his mother’s Mashpee Wampanoag tribal community located on Cape Cod and awardee of a Congressional Honor as Culture Bearer for the New England region; and Mo Nuñez, an award-winning music producer, educator and activist. Nuñez works throughout New England coaching schools on how to create inclusive environments for students.
The discussion addressed issues of racial justice; access issues across the board; who has power and who doesn’t, and why; human rights; the environment; and the need to teach youth to be critical and sift out the lies from the truths.